Lately I’ve been struggling internally to come to terms with not doing something that I’ve wanted to do for a very long time. That something being a WordPress entrepreneur, or more specifically building WordPress software products.
You see, I’ve got the entrepreneurial spirit/bug in me. Ever since I was in high school I’ve pursued many different business opportunities, some with more success than others.
But, I’ve never “made it” as an entrepreneur.
The closest I’ve come to “making it” was running my own consultancy for a couple of years, but I landed up taking a full time job after it got too hectic.
The WordPress Entrepreneur’s opportunity
Right now, there is so much opportunity in the WordPress space to build and sell products. My body is itching to get involved by building plugins/extensions and starting a business around them.
You’ve probably seen the many WordPress developers that have become WordPress entrepreneurs over the past few years by building up plugin businesses. They’ve all been doing really well. Guys like Pippin, WP Ninjas, Elliot Condon, more recently Calum Allison, and so many more. Deep down inside, I’ve been quite envious of them.
So the question is, why don’t I start a business like that? I mean, I can write the code required and I have a TON of ideas and free plugins that I could easily start to monetise with extensions tomorrow.
We’ll it’s complicated and comes down to a few different factors. Later in the post, I’ll get to what I’m doing instead of plugins and extensions.
Problems with starting a WordPress software business
I hope these don’t come off as a big bunch of excuses, they don’t feel like that in my head, but more reasoning why I’ve decided to take a different path.
So the first factor is time. Even with running a free open source plugin, I barely get any time to work on or support it. It’s a catch 22 situation here because the reason I don’t have time is because I’m working on other things to make money i.e. a job and my platform. Whereas if I were putting out products, I should be making enough money to replace what I’m currently doing. It is of course, not as simple as that. There are trade offs to be made in either case.
Supporting products is a bit of a headache. I don’t really want to be in the support game. I love building software, but supporting it is another ball game. I’ve seen support break software developers and make them bitter. Yes, you can hire a support team but ultimately, the buck stops with the business owner/developer. And also, hiring staff comes with it’s own set of challenges. I see myself as more of an indie entrepreneur/developer. Someone who, when they build a business, wants to go it alone. Maybe this will change over time, I’m not sure. Don’t get me wrong though, I love working on teams and will continue to do so for a long time, but for a business model I like the idea of going indie.
I’m not sure it fits my ideals. This is something I am working on to define. Who and what is it that defines me? What do I stand for? I love the idea of open software and personally, I’m not sure how that fits with charging people for it. I’m not saying it’s wrong to charge people for software at all, this ground has definitely been tested to it’s limits in the WordPress space and it’s a lot clearer now what flies and what doesn’t.
I feel that I need to focus more on writing core WordPress code. As developers we can’t do it all. I’m pushing myself to the limits with everything that I’m doing. It’s challenging. I take very little time off. With that in mind, and this bridges very closely to the timing issue, I can’t do both WordPress core code and my own plugin code at the same time. It’s just not possible.
The alternative path to products
And so, because of everything mentioned above, I made a decision at the end of last year when deciding what to focus on in 2016, to only write open source and free software.
I also decided to not create any new plugins and I am still mulling over potentially retiring my existing plugins.
It’s been hard. Watching the success of others and knowing you could be doing the same is difficult.
And so, to satisfy my entrepreneurial spirit I decided to go all in on my blog. The ultimate goal here is to make a bit of money from it.
I don’t ever see this blog as being a full time thing. It’s more just an extension of who I am as a developer. Because of that, it ties in very well to my current situation i.e. a full time WordPress developer at an agency who contributes to the WordPress project.
The reason this blog extends me as a developer is because everything I work on, in my day to day development, either relates to or directly influences what I put out on this blog.
My work gives me ideas for posts, my open source code gives me video content, my tools that I use to develop give me course content etc.
It helps with the timing issue because everything I am doing on a day to day basis is focused towards the same path. I don’t ever have to switch gears. My work is my blog and my blog is my work.
Now, I know full well that the earning potential of this tiny little blog on the internet is nowhere close to what I could achieve with selling software.
If I look at people in the WordPress space doing a similar concept to what I am starting, like Post Status or Tom Mcfarlin, I’m sure they’re doing well with their membership sites, but I don’t think it’s anywhere near this.
Last I heard Post Status had around 500 members which is a huge amount, but if you translate that to revenue/profit by doing the math, again I don’t think it’s close to some of the numbers of the big plugin developers.
Giving people what they want is the key to sales, for software and information products
I’ve determined that people are more willing to pay for something that fills an immediate desire or problem than something that will give them long term benefit.
For example, someone is very likely to buy a plugin extension which allows them to accept payments on an ecommerce site they’re launching. It is fundamental to having that ecommerce site function and is a real world problem for them.
Whereas, someone browsing my site and coming across, let’s say a membership program for great content around WordPress development, has less of a desire to buy now as it doesn’t solve an immediate real world problem of theirs.
And there lies the challenge for me as a WordPress entrepreneur. I need to produce content on this blog that solves someones immediate problem so that they will buy. It’s not as easy as writing software but it is doable.
Off the top of my head, an example would be writing an ebook on “How to build a kickass ecommerce site with WordPress, that converts like crazy”. That person who is building an ecommerce site is likely to buy that book.
My greatest hope is that I can turn this blog into something more than just a showcase. That I can deliver valuable content that people are willing to pay for and make a nice side income from it to supplement my full time income as a WordPress developer.
And so to summarise this post, I’ve decided to take the road less travelled as a WordPress entrepreneur. A road where I get to work on open source code, work at an agency and teach the stuff that I’ve learned. Only time will tell if I made the right decision, but I’m making sure that I give it my best shot.